September 20, 2010

Tech v. Craft: The False Dichotomy

Didi Tang, of the Springfield News-Leader, has a story on today’s front page about MSU’s high-tech classrooms. I teach multimedia journalism in the collaborative classroom in Siceluff hall — our highest of high-tech rooms.

What am I teaching in there?

The class is surely about technology just as surely as it is about using technology to do good journalism. The class is about a medium — the internet — and how that medium conveys other media and how to use the particular way it conveys other media to do good journalism.

When you teach print journalism, you (must) teach print technology.

When you teach broadcast journalism, you (must) teach TV/radio technology.

When you teach multimedia internet journalism, people get bent out of shape.

The class is producing the Ozarks News Journal. You’ll start to see real news coverage there very soon. Students are blogging on the site now. We still have a few odds and ends to take care of getting the site fully functional. This is the first class to work for ONJ (there is also an associated TV show), so they are playing a big role in creating it from scratch.

Take a look at the syllabus linked above. Notice what I have listed for Weeks 4 through 15: “Produce the ONJ website.” That means: cover the news and publish it. That does not mean, as Dr. Melvin Mencher is quoted (linked above), that we have:

… now reached a point of no return where the technology is taking over the curriculum, with disastrous effects… Students are no longer going to be educated in the basic function of journalism.

His famous textbook of basic news reporting and writing is in its 12th edition. I used one of the very early editions when I was taking journalism classes at the University of Delaware back in the late 1970s.

Let me tell you about our journalism classroom there. It was in the basement of Memorial Hall. There were tables and chairs in the center of the room and typewriter stations around the periphery. This room was totally up-to-date technologically. And all we could do in that room was pretend to be journalists.

My classroom is a working newsroom — made possible by the computer/collaborative technology and students’ cell phones.

Part of the “basic function of journalism” today is figuring out what journalism is going to be. My students are working on that opportunity right now. I’m looking forward to what we discover together.

For more on what I’ve written about journalism education, check out:

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